Giant Pandas Eat, Sleep and Repeat
by Alana Caire, age 11
Have you ever wondered where pandas live in the wild and what they eat? The Giant panda lives in the mountains of Sichuan, China, in the Tibetan Plateau. This damp habitat is near the top highest elevations of Xifan Mountains where bamboo thrives in heavy snow. Pandas are among the most endangered animals in the world. They are protected from hunters and poachers under Chinese law with strong penalties, including jail time.
Pandas are black and white all over. White fur covers their head, neck, and rump down to their legs. Black fur makes a ring around their stomach to their back and forms spots around their eyes. Their nose and lips are made of black skin.
Pandas subsist on bamboo, even though it has few nutrients. Pandas can constantly eat it because it is abundant in their range, which is about half a square mile long. When they eat, they first rip a branch off of a bamboo tree and start to chew on it. They have sharp cutting teeth, and a battery of broad molars to grind up the tough layers of bamboo. Unlike other plant-eating animals, the giant panda doesn’t have a special stomach compartment to help break down the more fibrous bamboo, so it must constantly eat to survive. After eating, pandas take a nap for about four or more hours. When they wake up, they begin eating again.
Mating season is in autumn. A male panda seeks out a female panda. The female gives off a scent, like perfume, and calls out from high trees to tell the male she is available. When he notices her, mating begins. The newborn pandas are tiny, blind, and furless. As the mother nurses her cub, it grows and begins to learn to eat bamboo shoots. She cradles the cub in the corner of her arm to hold it. Although the cub stops nursing at six months, it stays with its mother through the next breeding season. It leaves her the following spring in search for food, a nesting area, and a mate to continue its life. These big, fat, and lazy animals are expert sleepers, big eaters, and also incredibly interesting.
[Source: Wildlife Explorer]